IBM holds more patents and trademarks than any other technology company, having received 9,100 in 2018 alone, and with a total portfolio of more than 110,000 patents. This was their 26th year at the top of the list in the number of patents received. Though the company’s market cap and value fluctuates, they continue to be one of the biggest names in tech, including an enormous trademark portfolio valued at $36.2 billion. With so many patents and trademarks, the company is constantly moving to protect its valuable intellectual property. What lessons can we learn from IBM about protecting your portfolio of patents and trademarks?
Intellectual Property Diversification Keeps Companies Robust
International Business Machines was founded in Endicott, New York in 1911 and has operations in over 170 countries. While originally a hardware manufacturing company, they began in the computer space in the mid-1960s, eventually expanding into services like software, web hosting and cloud computing. Through strategic partnerships with companies like Apple, Microsoft, and major social media companies, they have continued to be a major player in the tech front since the inception of the personal computer. Diversification has truly kept this company strong. Today, the company’s newest patents include those related to blockchain technology, AI and machine learning, cybersecurity, climate change, and ideas and products that blend technology with healthcare.
But staying on top of such a huge portfolio means aggressive protection strategies, including protection in court, when necessary. IBM is quite regularly in the process of suing even some of the largest companies in the world for alleged patent infringement. The costs of losing to a behemoth like IBM can be huge. For example, in 2018, IBM won an $82.5M verdict against discount giant Groupon (later settled for $57M).
Every challenge isn’t a win. In 2019, IBM received a split verdict in their lawsuit against the company that owns, Priceline, Open Table and travel website Kayak, resulting in an undisclosed settlement, and resulting in patent cross-licenses for each company’s patent portfolio.
Further, businesses with large and/or valuable portfolios can result in lawsuits that must be defended against. IBM has been involved with lawsuits over the years where they’ve been accused of trademark infringement.
All Trademark Portfolios Matter, No Matter the Company Size
These high-level cases illustrate the value of a large patent and trademark portfolio, but small portfolios are equally valuable. The trade secrets of your brand can directly relate to your company’s value and continued profitability. Developing a relationship with a trusted patent and trademark law firm is an important part of your continued ability to thrive if you have a patent and trademark portfolio worth defending.
Patent litigation is a huge business—a sign that you should continually be on guard about protecting your intellectual property. In 2018, more than half of the lawsuits filed in this country were related to patent litigation, and that number continues to rise.
As your business continues to grow and expand, trademark attorneys can help pave the way so your brand is continuously protected, monitoring and taking measures to protect and prevent your trademarks from unauthorized use. The bigger your brand becomes and the more patents, trademarks and licenses you own, the more people and/or companies may try to imitate or infringe upon your protected methods and products to their advantage—and to the detriment of your business.
How to Choose a Trademark Lawyer that Right for You
Experienced intellectual property lawyers know how to work alongside you so your brand, company name, trademarks, patents, copyrights, licenses and even your trade secrets are protected throughout their lifecycle. Good IP lawyers don’t just prepare and file patents and trademark applications; they monitor your existing portfolio for any signs of infringement, and will aggressively move to defend your property, representing you in court if necessary.
But experience isn’t enough. A good lawyer becomes a true trusted advisor. When you select an IP lawyer or firm, you should look for a firm that they will take your concerns seriously and consider the work as important as if it were their own business they were protecting. Good IP lawyers will work with you to evaluate whether or not an idea, product or service is patentable, and will help place a value on your portfolio, then protect that value through careful and proper filing of patents and trademarks—without divulging valuable secrets to your competitors.
When seeking a trademark lawyer, make sure you find one who will work creatively, innovatively and aggressively to build, maintain and protect your competitive advantage through every phase of your business.